Russian conductor charged with raping boy in Thailand

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Grammy-award-winning Russian conductor Mikhail Pletnev has been charged in Thailand with raping a 14-year-old boy, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in jail, police said Wednesday.

Pletnev, artistic director of the acclaimed Russian National Orchestra, was released Tuesday after he posted 300,000 baht (9,300 dollars) bail following his arrest in the Thai resort of Pattaya.

"He was initially charged with raping a boy under 15 which carries a jail term of four to 20 years," Lieutenant Colonel Omsin Sukkanka told AFP.

He said police were considering whether to also file charges of illegal detention of a juvenile against Pletnev.

"He has to report to the court every 12 days and if he wants to travel overseas he has to seek court permission because we already notified the immigration authority," Omsin said.

Supagon Noja, a worker with a non-governmental organisation in Pattaya who has been actively involved in the case, said the victim was still in school. He said Pletnev denied the charge.

"The victim filed a complaint with us. We cooperated with police to investigate and obtained a court arrest warrant," Supagon said.

Pletnev is a long-time resident of the resort town -- famous for its raunchy nightlife -- where he has a spa business, music school and owns several houses, he added.

The musician first shot to fame as a virtuoso pianist, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978 at the age of 21.

In the early 1980s he started conducting and in recent years gave up piano concerts in favour of his increasingly in-demand conducting activities.

His recordings with the RNO of the Russian classics, notably symphonies by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, have been hailed by critics.

He is a member of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's advisory council on culture and art and in 2005 won a Grammy award for best chamber music performance.

The Russian government has sent an "urgent order" to its embassy in Thailand to look into the situation and provide consular assistance to Pletnev, according to a statement carried by the Interfax news agency.

"The Russian ministry of culture has learned about the situation... of the world famous musician Mikhail Pletnev with great concern," it added.

Police told Pletnev that some Thais who had been arrested for paedophilia and producing child porn had given evidence against him, a Russian consular official in Thailand told news agency RIA Novosti.

"The police conducted a search together with Pletnev of his house, where nothing suspicious was found," said the official, Andrei Dvornikov.

The consul added that Pletnev, 53, and his Thai lawyer would on Wednesday go to court to ask permission for the conductor to leave the country so he could take part in his orchestra's forthcoming tours.

Thailand is infamous for its flourishing prostitution and child sex trafficking.

It has made efforts to clean up its image and in 2008 expelled former glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter to his native Britain after he had served nearly three years in a Vietnamese prison.

Viola player Yuri Bashmet, another Russian musician who grew up through the Soviet system to become an international classical star, said he was "in shock" at the news of Pletnev's arrest.

"If it is true then he will have to answer according to the law," Bashmet told Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda.

© 2010 AFP

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